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The United States anticipates receiving more than 368,000 new refugees and asylum claims in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020.  Pursuant to Section 207(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the President proposes resettling up to 18,000 refugees under the new refugee admissions ceiling, and anticipates processing more than 350,000 individuals included new asylum claims.  This refugee admissions ceiling reflects the urgent need to address the border security and humanitarian crisis caused by the massive surge of aliens seeking protection at the U.S. southern border.  It also reflects the backlog of nearly one million asylum-seekers who are awaiting adjudication of their claims inside the United States. 

Who is a Refugee?

Under Section 101(a)(42) of the INA, a refugee is an alien who, generally, has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.  Individuals who meet the statutory definition may be considered for either refugee status under Section 207 of the INA if they are outside the United States, or asylum status under Section 208 of the INA, if they are already in the United States or present themselves at a U.S. port of entry.  Both refugee and asylum status are forms of humanitarian protection offered by the United States.

Individuals outside the United States seeking admission as a refugee under Section 207 of the INA are processed through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), which is managed by the Department of State in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Those admitted as refugees are eligible for U.S. government-funded resettlement assistance, which is discussed in section III.  Individuals in the United States seeking asylum status under Section 208 of the INA are processed by DHS and, in certain cases, by the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR, also known as the immigration court system).  Asylum applicants are not eligible for resettlement assistance through USRAP but are eligible for certain other forms of assistance and services run by state, private, and non-profit agencies, and they may apply for employment authorization.

Since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980, which incorporated this definition of refugee into the INA, the United States has accepted more than 3.7 million refugees and asylees.  In FY 2019, the United States anticipates admitting approximately 30,000 refugees for resettlement and granting asylum to approximately 46,000 individuals.

Security and Humanitarian Crisis at the U.S. Southern Border

In this FY to date, enforcement actions[1] on the U.S. southern border with Mexico surpassed 800,000, an increase of over 100 percent over the same time the previous fiscal year.  Large groups of inadmissible aliens, sometimes in the hundreds, arriving together strain DHS processes and divert DHS resources to providing humanitarian relief.  Almost 200 groups of aliens, each comprising over 100 members (mostly Guatemalan and Honduran families), have been apprehended between ports of entry so far this fiscal year.  In May 2019, DHS reached an unfortunate record when more than 1,000 migrants illegally entered the United States in the largest single group ever encountered.

This dramatic increase in the number of aliens encountered along or near the U.S. southern border with Mexico corresponds with a sharp increase in the number and percentage of those who claim fear of persecution or torture when apprehended or encountered by DHS, as shown in the tables below.  Over the last ten FYs, the number of credible fear claims increased by eighteen times, the number of new asylum claims with DHS increased by almost five times, and the number of new asylum claims in the immigration courts increased by more than four times.

The majority of aliens encountered along the U.S. southern border now come from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, where poor economic conditions and high levels of generalized violence, while not grounds for asylum under U.S. law, are important “push factors.”  At the same time, certain U.S. laws, judicial rulings, and policies create “pull factors,” including the low threshold for determining credible fear,[2] the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA), and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA).[3]  While well-intentioned, these have helped create a humanitarian crisis by providing clear incentives to attempt the arduous and dangerous journey north through Mexico and to seek entry to the United States, particularly when applying as a “family unit” with a child.  Aliens believe that DHS will release them quickly and that they will be allowed to stay in the United States indefinitely, with work authorization, while pursuing claims for humanitarian protection.

Until Congress can act to address these pull factors, the Administration has sought to exercise existing legal authorities to reduce them.  These efforts include reaching agreements on migration and border security with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, including Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACAs); the Migrant Protection Protocols, which provides for certain aliens to remain in Mexico while awaiting their immigration court hearings; an Interim Final Rule on Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications, which provides that aliens who cross the U.S. southern border without having sought protection in at least one country en route are ineligible for asylum, with certain limited exceptions[4]; and the Final Rule on Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children, which addresses the FSA[5].  However, legislation remains necessary to address the FSA and TVPRA so they do not continue to incentivize child exploitation and dangerous journeys.

[1] An enforcement action is any action taken by ICE or CBP to apprehend, arrest, interview, or search an individual, or to surveil an individual for enforcement purposes.
[2] Asylum Officers of DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conduct a credible fear of persecution or torture interview when a person who is subject to expedited removal expresses an intention to apply for asylum, expresses a fear of persecution or torture, or expresses a fear of return to his or her country.  An individual will be found to have a credible fear of persecution if he or she establishes that there is a “significant possibility” that he or she could establish in a full hearing before an Immigration Judge that he or she has been persecuted or has a well-founded fear of persecution or harm on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion if returned to his or her country.
[3] P.L. 110-457
[4] 84 FR 33829
[5] 84 FR 44392

Rising Protection Claims and Backlog

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United States led the world in the number of new asylum applications received in calendar years 2017 and 2018.

In FY 2018, DHS received nearly 100,000 new credible fear cases and over 160,000 new affirmative asylum[1] cases, while the immigration courts[2] received 163,156 new asylum filings.

These new cases simply added to the lengthy backlog of pending claims, undermining the integrity of the asylum system.  They delay the grant of asylum to individuals who are legitimately fleeing persecution and have valid claims.  Further, such delays are a pull factor for illegal immigration.  By providing protection from removal, they create an incentive for those without lawful status to enter and remain in the United States.  Asylum applicants also may obtain employment authorization after their asylum applications have been pending for six months, creating an incentive to file frivolous or fraudulent asylum applications.

The increasing number of asylum claims also represents a cost to U.S. government benefits programs.  While asylum applicants are not eligible for the Reception & Placement assistance offered to refugees and discussed in section III, those who have been granted asylum status under Section 208 of the INA are eligible for other assistance and services funded by the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).  This is in addition to mainstream federal means-tested public benefits for which refugees and asylees are eligible, even ones otherwise unavailable to lawful permanent residents, as well as any other assistance they might receive under state law.  For FY 2020, ORR predicts 45,600 asylees will be eligible for such assistance and services; for FY 2021, ORR predicts 48,000 asylees will be eligible.

DHS continues to fill new positions within the USCIS Asylum Division devoted to eliminating the backlog of nearly 540,000 affirmative asylum cases expected at the end of FY 2019.  In order to address this backlog and prevent it from again increasing, however, DHS will continue to shift some refugee officers to assist the Asylum Division, consistent with Section 5 of Executive Order 13767 on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.

DOJ continues to hire new immigration judges and support staff to reduce the case backlog in the immigration court system, which will include almost 475,000 pending asylum cases at the end of FY 2019.  It has hired 150 new immigration judges since the beginning of FY 2018, and it continues to seek additional courtroom space to increase its adjudicatory capacity. It has also implemented process improvements, such as the use of video teleconferencing, to maximize its existing adjudicatory capacity and ensure that the pending caseload does not increase at an even faster rate.

[1] Affirmative asylum applications are filed by asylum-seekers who are not in removal proceedings in the immigration court system.  USCIS’s Asylum Division is responsible for processing affirmative asylum applications. 
[2] The DOJ/EOIR immigration court system handles asylum applications filed by aliens who are in removal proceedings and asylum applications referred by USCIS.

Security Vetting in Refugee Admissions

The December 2017 National Security Strategy says the United States “will enhance vetting of prospective immigrants, refugees, and other foreign visitors to identify individuals who might pose a risk to national security or public safety” and “will set higher security standards to ensure that we keep dangerous people out of the United States.”

As directed by Executive Order 13780, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, the U.S. government conducted a review of the USRAP and identified additional screening and vetting procedures to enable departments and agencies to more thoroughly review refugee applicants to identify potential threats to public safety and national security.

This review, as well as other efforts to improve the efficiency and integrity of processing applicants for refugee resettlement, have improved security in USRAP.  These enhanced security measures have lengthened processing time for some cases, but they are critical to ensure confidence that refugees granted resettlement in our country are thoroughly vetted.

DHS/USCIS Credible Fear Caseload FY 2009-2018

Fiscal Year New Receipts Fear Found Fear Not Found Closed Pending at end of FY
2009 5,369 3,411 1,004 807 210
2010 8,959 6,293 1,404 1,080 500
2011 11,217 9,423 1,054 1,052 295
2012 13,880 10,838 1,187 1,554 1,488
2013 36,035 30,393 2,587 3,194 890
2014 51,001 35,456 8,977 4,204 787
2015 48,052 33,988 8,097 6,330 3,045
2016 94,048 73,081 9,697 10,212 4,420
2017 78,564 60,566 8,245 10,899 1,658
2018 98,078 74,287 9,176 13,298 1,317
2019[1] 100,537 70,902 13,979 9,704 8,475

[1] Through August 31, 2019

DHS/USCIS Asylum Caseload FY 2009-2018

Fiscal Year New receipts (individuals) Receipts Pending at end of FY (individuals)
2009 32,661 7,230
2010 36,044 7,749
2011 44,617 11,520
2012 54,852 19,475
2013 60,829 42,452
2014 80,011 83,071
2015 117,679 154,552
2016 167,867 297,363
2017 208,509 456,816
2018 160,561 507,957
2019[1] 135,943 535,701

[1] Through August 31, 2019

DOJ/EOIR Immigration Court Asylum Caseload FY 2009-2018

Fiscal Year New filings (individuals) Pending at end of FY (individuals)
2009 35,814 76,266
2010 32,894 76,194
2011 41,463 84,573
2012 44,575 92,652
2013 43,458 94,981
2014 47,548 105,378
2015 63,632 129,204
2016 82,470 161,289
2017 144,535 246,792
2018 163,156 354,696

Refugee Admissions and Asylum Grants Since 1980

Fiscal Year Refugee Arrivals Individual Asylum Grants[1] Annual Totals
1980 207,116 1,104 208,220
1981 159,252 1,175 160,427
1982 98,096 3,909 102,005
1983 61,218 7,215 68,433
1984 70,393 8,278 78,671
1985 67,704 4,585 72,289
1986 62,146 3,359 65,505
1987 64,528 4,062 68,590
1988 76,483 5,531 82,014
1989 107,070 6,942 114,012
1990 122,066 8,472 130,538
1991 113,389 5,035 118,424
1992 132,531 6,307 138,838
1993 119,448 9,543 128,991
1994 112,981 13,828 126,809
1995 99,974 20,703 120,677
1996 76,403 23,532 99,935
1997 70,488 22,939 93,427
1998 77,080 20,507 97,587
1999 85,525 26,571 112,096
2000 73,147 32,514 105,661
2001 69,304 39,148 108,452
2002 27,110 36,937 64,047
2003 28,422 28,743 57,165
2004 52,868 27,376 80,244
2005 53,813 25,304 79,117
2006 41,279 26,352 67,631
2007 48,281 25,318 73,599
2008 60,192 23,022 83,218
2009 74,654 22,303 96,942
2010 73,311 19,771 93,066
2011 56,424 23,569 79,994
2012 58,238 27,948 86,248
2013 69,925 24,996 94,922
2014 69,987 23,369 93,283
2015 69,933 26,011 95,904
2016 84,994 20,340 105,449
2017 53,716 26,568 80,284
2018 22,491 38,687 61,178
Totals 3,071,980 721,873 3,793,853

[1] 1980-1989 figures exclude grants of asylum by DOJ/EOIR.

This Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2020 Report to the Congress is submitted in compliance with Sections 207(d)(1) and (e) of the INA.  This report provides the following information required by those sections:

  • A description of the nature of the refugee situation;
  • A description of the number and allocation of the refugees to be admitted, and an analysis of conditions within the countries from which they came;
  • A description of the plans for their movement and resettlement and the estimated cost of their movement and resettlement;
  • An analysis of the anticipated social, economic, and demographic impact of their admission to the United States;
  • A description of the extent to which other countries will admit and assist in the resettlement of such refugees;
  • An analysis of the impact of the participation of the United States in the resettlement of such refugees on the foreign policy interests of the United States; and
  • Such additional information as may be appropriate or requested by such members.

This report also contains information as required by Section 602(d) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-292, October 27, 1998, 112 Stat. 2787) (IRFA), as amended, about religious persecution of refugee populations eligible for consideration for admission to the United States.

This report also meets the reporting requirements of Section 305(b) of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-333, October 18, 2004, 118 Stat. 1287), as amended, by providing information about specific measures taken to facilitate access to the United States refugee program for individuals who have fled “countries of particular concern” for violations of religious freedoms, identified pursuant to Section 402(b) of the IRFA.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were 25.9 million refugees around the world at the end of calendar year 2018.[1]  This figure includes 5.5 million Palestinians under the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  It also includes an unknown number of individuals who qualify as refugees under UNHCR’s mandate but would not qualify as refugees under U.S. law.[2]

Africa:  According to UNHCR, the refugee population in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 67,000 during 2018, to 6.3 million.  Most were from South Sudan, where political conflict began in December 2013, but their number declined from 2.4 million to 2.3 million.  Most refugees from South Sudan were in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The number of Somali refugees declined from 986,000 to 950,000; Ethiopia, Kenya, and Yemen, were the main host countries.  About 726,000 Sudanese refugees have left their country, an increase from 695,000 last year, most to Chad and South Sudan.  There were over 720,000 refugees from DRC, an increase from nearly 621,000; Uganda hosted the vast majority, with smaller populations in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, South Sudan, and the Republic of Congo.  The number of refugees from the Central African Republic increased from 545,000 to nearly 591,000, almost all of them finding asylum in neighboring Cameroon, DRC, Chad, and the Republic of Congo.  Other major refugee source countries included Eritrea (507,000, up from 486,000) and Burundi (388,000, down from 439,000).

Asia:  UNHCR reports there were 4.2 million refugees in Asia at the end of 2018, an increase of almost 5,000 from the end of 2017.  Refugees from Afghanistan have been a significant population since the 1980s.  Despite the voluntary repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees since 2002, they remained the second-largest group of refugees in the world at 2.7 million, down slightly from 2.6 million.  Most were in Pakistan, about 1.4 million, while Iran hosted another 951,000.  More than 1.1 million people from Burma, including Rohingya fleeing violence and atrocities, have left Burma; about the same as last year.  The vast majority are in Bangladesh, while Malaysia and Thailand host smaller populations.

Europe:  According to UNHCR, the refugee population in Europe increased by approximately 360,000 during 2018, to nearly 6.5 million.  The vast majority came from outside the region, particularly Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  Turkey hosted the largest refugee population in the world:  3.7 million, up from 3.5 million.  Most were Syrians (3.6 million), with a much smaller number of Iranians.

Latin America and the Caribbean:  UNHCR reports there were about 216,000 refugees in the Americas outside of the United States and Canada at the end of 2018, a decrease of almost 37,000.  The majority – 139,000 – were Colombians in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Panama.  Over the last few years, however, Venezuela has gone from becoming a refuge for displaced Colombians to becoming a source of displaced people itself, as more than 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled political repression and economic decline.  In 2018, Venezuelans made about 350,000 new asylum claims, most of them in Peru, Brazil, and the United States.

In addition, poor economic conditions and high levels of generalized violence continued to contribute to hundreds of thousands of Central Americans leaving their home countries.  At the end of 2018, the number of individuals seeking refugee or asylum status included almost 152,000 from El Salvador, 106,000 from Guatemala, and almost 96,000 from Honduras.  The vast majority sought protection in the United States.

Near East and North Africa:  According to UNHCR, there were about 2.7 million refugees in the Middle East and North Africa at the end of 2018, a decrease of almost 13,000 from the end-2017.  Syria remained the main country of origin of refugees worldwide due to the ongoing civil war that began in 2011; the number of Syrian refugees increased from 6.3 million to 6.7 million at end-2018.  In addition to those in Turkey and Germany, who are counted as part of the Europe figure above, there were nearly 950,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 676,000 in Jordan, 223,000 in Iraq, and 133,000 in Egypt.

[1] Unless noted otherwise, all figures in this section come from the June 18, 2019 UNHCR report, Global Trends:  Forced Displacement 2018.  Note that UNHCR counts on a calendar year basis.
[2] The definition of refugee at Section 101(a)(42) of the INA is consistent with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.  The United States is a party to the 1967 Protocol.  However, UNHCR uses a broader definition, and not all of the individuals it counts would qualify as refugees under the INA.  UNHCR’s figures also include individuals who are recognized under other instruments, such as the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa; recognized in accordance with the UNHCR Statute; granted complementary and temporary forms of protection; and, in 15 Latin American countries, covered by the criteria in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees.  UNHCR’s figure also includes individuals “in refugee-like situations that includes groups of people who are outside their country or territory of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.”

Proposed FY 2020 Allocations

Population of special humanitarian concern Admit up to
Refugees who:

  • have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of religion; or
  • who are within a category of aliens established under subsection (b) of Section 599D of Title V, P. L. 101-167, as amended (the Lautenberg and Specter Amendments).
Refugees who are within a category of aliens listed in Section 1243(a) of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007, Title XII, Div. A, P. L. 110-181, as amended. 4,000
Refugees who are nationals or habitual residents of El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. 1,500
Other refugees not covered by the foregoing categories, including:

  • Those referred to the USRAP by a U.S. embassy in any location.
  • Those who gain access to the USRAP for family reunification through the Priority 3 process or through a Form I-730 following-to-join petition.[1]
  • Those currently located in Australia, Nauru, or Papua New Guinea who gain access to USRAP pursuant to an arrangement between the United States and Australia.
Total proposed refugee admissions in FY 2020 18,000

[1] An explanation of USRAP “Priority” categories and the Form I-730 following-to-join process is available at Annex I.  Entering USRAP under a certain priority does not establish precedence in the order in which cases will be processed.  Once cases are established as eligible for access under one of the three processing priorities, they all undergo the same processing steps.

Country Conditions

The Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Right Practices ( and annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom ( include information about conditions in every country in the world, including those from which the United States resettles refugees.  It is important to note, however, that not all of the practices described in these reports would be recognized as “persecution” under Section 101(a)(42) of the INA.

Religious Freedom

The United States is committed to advancing international religious freedom, including the protection of religious minority groups, across the globe.  To this end, the Administration proposes a dedicated allocation for refugees who suffered or fear persecution on account of religion and refugees who are within the categories established through the Lautenberg and Specter amendments.

On November 28, 2018, Secretary of State Pompeo designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.  The Secretary also placed Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

The USRAP provides access in various ways to refugees who suffer religious persecution, including from CPC countries:

  • Priority 1, Individual Referrals: Nationals of any country, including CPCs and Special Watch List countries, may be referred to the USRAP through a Priority 1 referral for reasons of religious persecution.
  • Priority 2, Groups of Special Concern: Under the Lautenberg and Specter Amendments, religious minorities designated as Priority 2 category members, including from Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, are considered under a reduced evidentiary standard for establishing a well-founded fear of persecution.
  • Priority 3, Family Reunification: Refugees from Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan with certain refugee or asylee family members in the United States have access to the USRAP through Priority 3.

Overseas Processing

The Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) works closely with U.S. diplomatic missions, UNHCR, and other partners to identify candidates for resettlement through USRAP.  When an applicant is referred to USRAP for consideration, the case is received and processed by a Resettlement Support Center (RSC).  PRM funds seven RSCs around the world operated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations, or U.S. embassy contractors.


Under PRM’s guidance, RSCs collect biographic and other information from the applicants to prepare cases for security screening, interview, and adjudication by DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  The Secretary of Homeland Security has delegated to USCIS the authority to determine eligibility for refugee status under the INA.  Refugee determinations under the INA are entirely discretionary.  USCIS officers review the information that the RSC has collected and the results of security screening processes and conduct an in-person interview with each refugee applicant before deciding whether to approve him or her for classification as a refugee.

Post-Adjudication Processing

If an applicant is conditionally approved for resettlement by USCIS, RSC staff guide the refugee applicant through post-adjudication steps, including a health screening to identify medical needs and to ensure that those with a contagious disease do not enter the United States.  The RSC also obtains a “sponsorship assurance” from a U.S.-based resettlement agency that receives funding from PRM for Reception and Placement (R&P) assistance.  Once all required steps are completed, the RSC refers the case to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for transportation to the United States.


The Department of State funds the international transportation of refugees resettled in the United States through a program administered by IOM.  The cost of transportation is provided to refugees in the form of a no-interest loan.  Refugees are responsible for repaying these loans over time through their R&P providers, beginning six months after their arrival.

Cultural Orientation

The Department of State strives to ensure that refugees admitted to the United States are prepared for the changes they will experience by providing cultural orientation programs prior to departure.  Every refugee family is offered a copy of “Welcome to the United States,” a book developed with contributions from refugee resettlement workers, resettled refugees, and government officials that provides accurate information about initial resettlement.  In addition, the Department of State funds one- to five-day pre-departure orientation classes for eligible refugees at sites throughout the world.  Refugees may also access cultural orientation information through a website that is translated into seven languages and provides information in numerous modes to meet all literacy levels, as well as a new mobile application.

In order to reach Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, a population that does not routinely have access to pre-departure classroom cultural orientation, the Department of State also created a series of four videos in Dari and Arabic.

In addition, the Department of State offers a curriculum for cultural orientation after refugees’ arrival in the United States.  This includes a model assessment tool for domestic orientation providers to assess refugee understanding of orientation topics during the R&P period.

Reception and Placement (R&P)

Unlike asylees, who arrive in the United States on their own, refugees selected for resettlement through USRAP are eligible for R&P assistance.  Each refugee approved for admission to the United States is sponsored by a resettlement agency.  Several non-profit resettlement agencies participate in the R&P Program under a cooperative agreement with the Department of State.

Where are Refugees Resettled?

Representatives from the resettlement agencies meet frequently to review the biographic information and other case records sent by the RSC, seeking to match the particular needs of each incoming refugee with the specific resources available in U.S. communities.  Through this process, they determine which resettlement agency will sponsor and where each refugee will be initially resettled in the United States.

Many refugees have family or close friends already in the United States, and resettlement agencies make every effort to reunite them.  Others are placed where they have the best opportunity for success through employment with the assistance of strong community services.  Agencies place refugees throughout the United States.  Through its local affiliates, each agency monitors the resources that each community offers (e.g., interpreters who speak various languages, the size and special features of available housing, the availability of schools with special services, medical care, English classes, employment services, etc.).

Information about the states where refugees admitted to the United States in FY 2018 were initially resettled is available in section VII.

Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement

Pursuant to this Executive Order, PRM will seek to ensure that newly-arrived refugees are placed in communities where the State and local governments have consented to receive them.  Close cooperation with state and local governments ensures that refugees are resettled in communities that are eager and equipped to support their successful integration into American society and labor force.  State and local governments are best positioned to know the resources and capacities they may or may not have available to devote to sustainable resettlement, which maximizes the likelihood refugees placed in the area will become self-sufficient and free from long-term dependence on public assistance.

What Do the Resettlement Agencies Do?

The sponsoring resettlement agency is responsible for placing refugees with one of its local affiliates and for providing initial services.  The Department of State’s standard cooperative agreement with each of the resettlement agencies specifies the services the agency must provide, which include housing, essential furnishings, food, necessary clothing, orientation, and assistance with access to other social, medical, and employment services.  The R&P Program provides resettlement agencies a one-time payment per refugee to assist with expenses during a refugee’s first three months in the United States, but the program anticipates that sponsoring agencies will contribute significant cash or in-kind resources to supplement U.S. government funding.

What Happens When Refugees Arrive?

Upon arrival in the United States, all refugees are met by someone from the local resettlement affiliate or a family member or friend.  They are taken to their apartment, which has basic furnishings, appliances, climate-appropriate clothing, and some food typical of the refugee’s culture.  Shortly after arrival, refugees are helped to start their lives in the United States.  This includes applying for a Social Security card, registering children in school, arranging medical appointments, and connecting refugees with necessary social or language services.


Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, refugees are eligible for public assistance when they first arrive.  Nevertheless, the U.S. government seeks to promote early economic self-sufficiency through employment to speed integration into American society.[1]  Refugees receive employment authorization upon arrival and are encouraged to become employed as soon as possible.

[1] Economic self-sufficiency is defined at 45 CFR 400.2 as “earning a total family income at a level that enables a family unit to support itself without receipt of a cash assistance grant.”  Cash assistance includes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), refugee cash assistance, and general assistance, but not other forms of public assistance, such as housing and medical assistance.

Beyond R&P

Beginning with arrival in the United States, and continuing after the R&P period ends, refugees, approved asylees, and other eligible groups benefit from special programs funded by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR) and administered by the states, resettlement agencies, or community organizations.[1]

Up to eight months of Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) is available for refugees, approved asylees, and other ORR-eligible groups who are not eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Refugees not eligible for Medicaid can receive up to eight months of Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) upon arrival.  In addition, each refugee receives a medical screening within the initial resettlement period.  ORR also provides health and mental health services through the Survivors of Torture and Refugee Health Promotion grant programs.

The Matching Grant Program through the R&P resettlement agencies is an alternative to public cash assistance.  It aims to enable certain refugees, approved asylees, and other ORR-eligible groups to become economically self-sufficient within six months of eligibility.  Participating agencies provide case management, employment services, maintenance assistance, and cash allowance.

ORR distributes Refugee Support Services (RSS) grants based on arrival numbers of ORR-eligible populations in each state.  Refugees, approved asylees, and other ORR-eligible groups can access RSS services up to five years after arrival.  These services may include employment services, on-the-job training, English language instruction, vocational training, case management, translation, social adjustment services, health-related services, childcare, and transportation.

Refugee School Impact grants are available to support regions with high concentrations of refugees and other ORR-eligible children in local schools.  This program funds activities that aim to strengthen academic performance and facilitate social adjustment.  Set-aside funds also support youth mentoring activities and specialized services to for elderly refugees.

ORR also funds non-profit agencies to carry out special initiatives or programs for refugees, approved asylees, and other ORR-eligible groups including:  case management, ethnic community development, career pathways, individual development accounts, microenterprise development, and agricultural projects.

[1] HHS/ORR refugee benefits and services are available to refugees, approved asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders and their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, Cuban and Haitian entrants, certain Amerasians immigrants from Vietnam, victims of a severe form of trafficking who have received certification or eligibility letters from ORR, trafficking victims family members with “T” nonimmigrant visas, and some victims of torture. 

Estimated Cost for Refugee Processing and Resettlement

Agency FY 2019 Availability

(in millions)

FY 2020 Estimated Availability

(in millions)


USRAP processing[1]

$48 $50
Department of State/PRM USRAP admissions[2] $367 $372
HHS/ORR benefits and services[3] $561 $470
Totals $976 $892

[1] This FY 2019 figure includes cost factors to reflect Headquarters facilities rent related to the refugee resettlement program, staffing, general expense and following-to-join refugee processing, in addition to certain International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) and Capital Security Cost Sharing (CSCS) costs.  It also includes personnel salary and benefits for refugee officers detailed to the Asylum Division.
[2] This FY 2019 figure includes FY 2019 Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) appropriation of $306 million, $11.7 million in MRA carryover from FY 2018, $48.7 million in projected IOM loan collections/carryover, and an estimate of $1 million in prior-year MRA recoveries.  A portion of these funds will be carried over into FY 2020.  This FY 2020 figure includes FY 2020 MRA budget request of $320 million, $46 million in projected IOM loan collections/carryover, and an estimate of $6 million in prior-year MRA recoveries. 
[3] HHS/ORR refugee benefits and services are available to refugees asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders and their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, Cuban and Haitian entrants, certain Amerasian immigrants from Vietnam, victims of a severe form of trafficking who have received certification or eligibility letters from ORR, trafficking victims family members with “T” nonimmigrant visas, and some victims of torture.  The estimated funding for these groups is included here.  None of these additional groups is included in the refugee admissions ceiling.  This category does not include costs associated with the Unaccompanied Alien Children’s Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, or the Victims of Trafficking or Survivors of Torture.  These estimates do not include any prior year carryover funding.  The estimated FY 2020 figures above reflect the President’s FY 2020 Budget request.

In accordance with the Refugee Act of 1980, ORR produces an Annual Report to Congress that presents ORR’s activities, expenditures, policies, and information about the individuals receiving ORR benefits and services, which addresses this issue in greater detail.  The Annual Report to Congress also includes data from the Annual Survey of Refugees (ASR), which tracks the progress refugees make towards integration during their first five years in the United States and thus provides insight into the social, economic, and demographic impact of refugee admissions.  The ASR collects basic demographic information such as age, level of education, English language proficiency and training, job training, labor force participation, work experience, and barriers to employment.  It collects other data by family unit, including information on housing, income, and public benefits use.


ORR published the results of the most recent ASR in the 2016 Annual Report to Congress, covering refugee arrivals FY 2011 to FY 2015.  Its findings include:

Education level:  Respondents age 25 or older averaged 8.7 years of education before arrival; about half did not have a high school diploma upon arrival; and 29 percent of refugees age 25 or older listed their prior educational attainment as “none.”  Among respondents age 18 and older, 16 percent were pursuing a degree of some kind, with most seeking high school equivalency.

English language proficiency:  Respondents improved their English over time, but large deficits remained.  Among refugees age 18 or older who had lived in the United States between 4.5 and 6.5 years, 53 percent spoke English “not well” or “not at all,” based on self-assessments.

Employment:  Among respondents ages 16 to 64, 67.1 percent were in the labor force, of whom 88.4 percent were employed; this is slightly lower than the comparable rates for native-born members of the U.S. population:  73.7 percent in labor force, of whom 91.6 percent were employed.  However, male respondents were employed at a rate roughly on par with the U.S. population after being in the United States for only two years.  Employed refugees age 18 or older earned $12 per hour on average.

Public benefits use:  Two percent of respondent households reported public assistance as their only source of income; 27 percent received cash welfare of some kind, most often Supplemental Security Income (SSI); and 56 percent received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.  Among respondents age 18 or older, 57 percent reported having health coverage throughout the previous year, while 34 percent reported no health coverage.  Among those with coverage, about half received Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance.

ORR is overseeing a multi-year review of the data collected through the ASR, including revisions that improved the design of the 2016 ASR, to ensure the survey offers representative data on the refugee population.  ORR will release the results of the most recent Annual Survey of Refugees in its forthcoming 2017 Annual Report to Congress.

The number of individuals forcibly displaced worldwide, over 71 million, vastly exceeds the number that could be resettled or granted asylum in host countries each year.  The United States and UNHCR recognize that most desire safe, voluntary return to their homes.  Therefore, the United States seeks to promote this durable solution for displaced people, including refugees.  When safe and voluntary return is not possible, the United States promotes self-sufficiency and local integration in countries of first asylum.  Supporting refugees as close to their homes as possible facilitates their return when conditions permit.  The United States therefore encourages host governments to protect refugees and to allow them to integrate into local communities, as appropriate; in many cases, we also provide financial support, through contributions to humanitarian organizations, to support and encourage host countries in these activities.

Africa:  A number of African countries were among the top ten refugee-hosting countries worldwide.[1]  According to UNHCR, Uganda hosted 1.1 million refugees at the end of 2018, most from South Sudan, but also sizable populations from the DRC, Burundi, Somalia, and Rwanda.  The refugee population in Sudan exceeded 1 million; most were South Sudanese, with an additional population of Eritreans.  Ethiopia hosted over 900,000 refugees, most from South Sudan, with additional populations from Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan.

East Asia:  Countries in the region traditionally have been reluctant to integrate refugees, and the vast majority do not have asylum systems, although Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand host nearly 1.3 million Burmese refugees.  According to UNHCR, Bangladesh hosted over 945,000 refugees at end-2018, most of them Rohingya fleeing violence and atrocities in Burma’s Rakhine State.  Thousands more refugees of other nationalities are in the regional capitals of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta, including Afghanis, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Somalis, Syrians, and Yemenis.  UNHCR and international partners continue to encourage Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand to expand humanitarian protection and assistance for refugees and asylum seekers, and those countries have made efforts to improve refugee self-reliance and inclusion.

Europe:  According to UNHCR, at the end of 2018, Turkey hosted more refugees than any other country in the world –3.7 million, the vast majority from Syria.  Syrians in Turkey receive “temporary protection” status, which does not normally include a path to citizenship or permanent residence.  Non-Syrian asylum-seekers receive “International Protection,” which does not provide a pathway to long-term residency, citizenship, or protection from deportation.  Germany’s refugee population also continued to increase, from 970,000 to almost 1.1 million, mostly due to approved asylum claims; most were from Syria, while other major sources were Iraq and Afghanistan.  Other European countries have accepted tens of thousands of asylum-seekers, including France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Latin America and the Caribbean:  Most countries in the region have maintained policies allowing individuals in need of protection to obtain asylum and integrate locally.  According to UNHCR, a number of countries in the region have provided asylum and alternative legal forms of stay for over one million Venezuelans, mostly in Colombia but also in Chile, Ecuador, Panama, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Uruguay.

With support from the United States, provided through UNHCR, Mexico is improving its ability to adjudicate asylum claims and support asylum-seekers, including from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  The Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACAs) that the United States recently concluded with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, once in force, will further facilitate strengthening their ability to offer protection for refugees and asylum-seekers.  In addition to the United States, Canada, Australia, and Uruguay have resettled small numbers of refugees from the Northern Triangle via the Protection Transfer Arrangement.[2]

Near East and South Asia:  At the end of 2018, Lebanon hosted almost 1 million refugees overall, including the second-highest number of Syrian refugees, after Turkey.  In addition to sheltering Syrians, Lebanon also provided protection to thousands of non-Syrian refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Iraq and Sudan.  Jordan had the tenth-largest refugee and asylum seeker population in the world at 768,000; the vast majority of the refugees were from Syria, while more than 65,000 were from Iraq.  Neither Jordan’s nor Lebanon’s laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the both lack a formal system for protecting refugees.  By agreement with UNHCR, Jordan allows recognized refugees a maximum stay of one year, during which period UNHCR must find a durable solution.  This period is renewable, however, and Jordan generally does not force refugees to return to their countries of origin.  By contrast, Lebanon does not automatically grant legal stay to UNHCR-registered refugees, who generally must apply for Lebanese residency on a recurring basis under Lebanon’s immigration law.  According to UNHCR, Pakistan hosted the world’s second-largest refugee population at the end of 2018:  1.4 million refugees, almost all of them Afghans.  Iran ranked sixth among refugee-hosting countries worldwide, with 979,000 – the vast majority Afghans.

Third-Country Resettlement:  Third-country resettlement is an option for certain individuals who cannot return to their home countries or remain in the countries of first asylum.  According to UNHCR, 92,400 refugees were resettled to 25 countries in 2018.  Other than the United States, the top resettlement countries were:  Canada (28,100 admissions, up from 26,600 in 2017), Australia (12,700, down from 15,100), the United Kingdom (5,800, down from 6,200), and France (5,600, up from 2,500).  Other countries that resettled refugees were Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Uruguay.

[1] Unless noted otherwise, all figures in this section come from the June 18, 2019 UNHCR report, Global Trends:  Forced Displacement 2018.  Note that UNHCR counts on a calendar year basis.
[2] In 2016, Costa Rica entered into a Protection Transfer Arrangement (PTA) with UNHCR and IOM.  After pre-screening in the refugee applicant’s home countries, the PTA allows UNHCR and IOM to transfer applicants from the Northern Triangle most in need of immediate protection to Costa Rica, where they undergo refugee processing before being resettled to a third country. 

The United States seeks to enable the safe and voluntary return of refugees to their home countries – the solution that most refugees prefer.  This reflects our commitment to achieving the best humanitarian outcomes while advancing the foreign policy interests of the United States.

To this end, the U.S. National Security Strategy says that we will continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance, that we will continue to catalyze responses to man-made and natural disasters, and that we will support displaced people close to their homes as possible to help meet their needs until they can safely and voluntarily return home.  By focusing on ending the conflicts that drive displacement in the first place, and by providing assistance overseas to prevent further displacement, we can help prevent the destabilizing effects of such displacement on affected countries and their neighbors.

We see this strategy at work in U.S. efforts to resolve conflicts in Syrian and Afghanistan, strengthen economies and governance in Central American countries, and support the legitimate government in Venezuela against Maduro’s tyranny.  We also see it in the agreements on migration and border security that the United States recently concluded with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, including the Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACAs).

Also, the United States is the largest single provider of humanitarian assistance worldwide, funding the programs of UNHCR, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), IOM, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Food Programme (WFP), and a number of other international and non-governmental organizations.  Total U.S. humanitarian assistance was more than $8 billion in FY 2018, including funding from PRM and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA).

U.S. humanitarian assistance reaches tens of millions of displaced and crisis-affected people worldwide, including those who will never be considered or qualify for resettlement in a third country.  It provides urgent, life-saving support and services, including food, shelter, health care, education, and access to safe drinking water.  U.S. support for host countries, provided through contributions to humanitarian organizations, encourages those countries to continue sheltering those fleeing persecution and increases their access to work, education, and public services.  This increases their self-reliance and encourages them to stay close to home.

The U.S. approach allows us to help many more vulnerable people, and do so much more rapidly, than we could ever hope to help through resettlement in the United States.  In addition, helping displaced people in areas close to their homes facilitates their return when conditions allow.  This enables them to participate in rebuilding their homelands, promoting recovery and long-term stability of those countries and their neighbors – which also serves long-run U.S. foreign policy and national security interests.

Even as we remain the world’s largest humanitarian contributor, the United States expects other governments to share in the burden.  We will use our diplomatic influence to expand the number of donors and increase global contributions to humanitarian appeals and responses.  We will work to better target the application of our humanitarian assistance funds.  Also, as part of our broader UN reform agenda, we will seek to maximize the value of U.S. contributions to humanitarian organizations by driving reforms to make such organizations more effective, efficient, transparent, and accountable.

FY 2018 USRAP Admissions by Country of Origin

Country of Origin Individual Arrivals Percentage of Total Arrivals
Democratic Republic of Congo 7,878 35.03 %
Burma 3,555 15.81 %
Ukraine 2,635 11.72 %
Bhutan 2,228 9.91 %
Eritrea 1,269 5.64 %
Afghanistan 805 3.58 %
El Salvador 725 3.22 %
Pakistan 441 1.96 %
Russia 437 1.94 %
Ethiopia 376 1.67 %
Somalia 257 1.14 %
Moldova 207 0.92 %
Burundi 201 0.89 %
Belarus 181 0.80 %
Central African Republic 148 0.66 %
Iraq 140 0.62 %
Colombia 128 0.57 %
Rwanda 110 0.49 %
Vietnam 96 0.43 %
Sudan 76 0.34 %
Syria 62 0.28 %
Honduras 59 0.26 %
Armenia 58 0.26 %
Sri Lanka 56 0.25 %
Kazakhstan 47 0.21 %
Guatemala 42 0.19 %
Uganda 42 0.19 %
Iran 41 0.18 %
Uzbekistan 27 0.12 %
Cameroon 15 0.07 %
Ivory Coast 14 0.06 %
Senegal 14 0.06 %
Republic of South Sudan 13 0.06 %
Zimbabwe 13 0.06 %
Kyrgyzstan 12 0.05 %
Nepal 12 0.05 %
Guinea 10 0.04 %
China 6 0.03 %
Liberia 6 0.03 %
Congo 5 0.02 %
North Korea 5 0.02 %
New Zealand 5 0.02 %
Turkmenistan 5 0.02 %
Kenya 3 0.01 %
Algeria 2 0.01 %
Azerbaijan 2 0.01 %
Bangladesh 2 0.01 %
Ghana 2 0.01 %
Niger 2 0.01 %
Yemen 2 0.01 %
Angola 1 0.00 %
Chad 1 0.00 %
Djibouti 1 0.00 %
Egypt 1 0.00 %
Georgia 1 0.00 %
India 1 0.00 %
Jamaica 1 0.00 %
Jordan 1 0.00 %
Kuwait 1 0.00 %
Libya 1 0.00 %
Nigeria 1 0.00 %
Philippines 1 0.00 %
Saudi Arabia 1 0.00 %
South Africa 1 0.00 %
Totals 22,491 100.00 %

FY 2018 USRAP Arrivals by State of Initial Resettlement

State Refugees Amerasians[1] Total Arrivals Percentage of Total Arrivals
Texas 1,669 23 1,692 7.52 %
Washington 1,537 7 1,544 6.86 %
Ohio 1,408 0 1,408 6.26 %
California 1,362 8 1,370 6.09 %
New York 1,281 0 1,281 5.70 %
Arizona 998 0 998 4.44 %
North Carolina 934 3 937 4.17 %
Pennsylvania 906 0 906 4.03 %
Kentucky 896 0 896 3.98 %
Georgia 833 4 837 3.72 %
Minnesota 723 0 723 3.21 %
Illinois 702 5 707 3.14 %
Michigan 651 0 651 2.89 %
Florida 587 4 591 2.63 %
Iowa 538 0 538 2.39 %
Indiana 493 0 493 2.19 %
Colorado 486 0 486 2.16 %
Missouri 477 5 482 2.14 %
Maryland 465 0 465 2.07 %
Massachusetts 464 0 464 2.06 %
Oregon 437 0 437 1.94 %
Virginia 431 4 435 1.93 %
Tennessee 420 0 420 1.87 %
Wisconsin 404 0 404 1.80 %
Kansas 383 0 383 1.70 %
Idaho 360 0 360 1.60 %
Nebraska 343 0 343 1.53 %
Utah 320 0 320 1.42 %
Nevada 213 0 213 0.95 %
South Dakota 211 0 211 0.94 %
New Hampshire 162 0 162 0.72 %
New Jersey 162 0 162 0.72 %
North Dakota 162 0 162 0.72 %
Connecticut 156 0 156 0.69 %
Vermont 133 0 133 0.59 %
Montana 115 0 115 0.51 %
South Carolina 100 8 108 0.48 %
Oklahoma 92 0 92 0.41 %
Rhode Island 86 0 86 0.38 %
New Mexico 62 3 65 0.29 %
Maine 62 0 62 0.28 %
Arkansas 59 0 59 0.26 %
Alaska 42 0 42 0.19 %
Alabama 30 8 38 0.17 %
Louisiana 24 4 28 0.12 %
Delaware 21 0 21 0.09 %
Mississippi 3 0 3 0.01 %
District of Columbia 1 0 1 0.00 %
West Virginia 1 0 1 0.00 %
Totals 22,405 86 22,491 100.00 %

[1] Certain Amerasian immigrants and their family members are eligible for refugee resettlement assistance under section 584 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 1988, as contained in section 101(e) of Public Law 100-202.

Section 207(a)(3) of the INA says that USRAP shall allocate admissions among refugees “of special humanitarian concern to the United States in accordance with a determination made by the President after appropriate consultation.”  There are three categories of individuals eligible to enter USRAP, known as “priorities”[1]:

  • Priority 1: Individual cases referred by designated entities to the program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement.
  • Priority 2: Groups of special concern designated by the Department of State as having access to the program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement.
  • Priority 3: Individual cases from designated nationalities granted access for purposes of reunification with family members already in the United States.

[1] Entering USRAP under a certain “priority” does not establish precedence in the order in which cases will be processed.  Once cases are established as eligible for access under one of the three processing priorities, they all undergo the same processing steps.

Priority 1 (P-1): Individual Referrals

P-1 allows consideration of refugee claims from persons of any nationality, usually with compelling protection needs, for whom resettlement appears to be the appropriate durable solution.  P-1 cases are identified and referred to the USRAP by U.S. embassy, UNHCR, or a designated non-governmental organization (NGO).  UNHCR has historically referred the vast majority of P-1 cases; however, USRAP will no longer accept referrals from UNHCR except in the categories listed in this year’s allocation in the Presidential Determination.  Some NGOs providing humanitarian assistance in locations where there are large concentrations of refugees are eligible to provide P-1 referrals.  A U.S. ambassador may make a P-1 referral for persons still in their country of origin if the ambassador determines that such cases are in need of exceptional treatment, and the Department of State and DHS concur.

Priority 2 (P-2): Group Referrals

P-2 includes specific groups identified by U.S. law.  The open-access model allows individuals to access the program directly, on the basis of certain criteria.  The Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs) responsible for handling open-access P-2 applications, working under the direction of PRM, make a preliminary determination as to whether individual applicants qualify for access and should be presented to DHS for interview.  Applicants who clearly do not meet the access requirements are “screened out” before the DHS interview.

Once an individual gains access to USRAP processing via a P-2 designation, all other processing steps are the same as for those referred by P-1, including individual pre-screening and DHS interviews, and all security and medical checks.

Open-access P-2s inside their country of origin:

  • Certain Members of Religious Minority Groups in Eurasia and the Baltics: Jews, Evangelical Christians, and Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox religious adherents identified in the Lautenberg Amendment, Section 599D of Title V, P. L. 101-167, as amended (the Lautenberg Amendment), with close family in the United States.  Based on the annual statutory renewal of the Lautenberg Amendment, these individuals are considered under a reduced evidentiary standard for establishing a well-founded fear of persecution.
  • Certain Iraqis Associated with the United States: Employees of the U.S. government, U.S. government-funded contractors or grantees, U.S. media, or U.S. NGOs working in Iraq, and certain family members of such employees eligible under Section 1243(a) of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007, Title XII, Div. A, P. L. 110-181, as amended.

Open-access P-2s outside their country of origin:

  • Certain Members of Religious Minority Groups in Iran: Jews, Christians, Baha’is, Sabaean-Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians are considered under a reduced evidentiary standard for establishing a well-founded fear of persecution pursuant to the annual renewal of the Lautenberg Amendment, as amended in 2004 by Section 213 of Title II, Division E, of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, P. L. 108-199 (the Specter Amendment).
  • Certain Iraqis Associated with the United States: Employees of the U.S. government, U.S. government-funded contractors or grantees, U.S. media, or U.S. NGOs working in Iraq, and certain family members of such employees eligible under Section 1243(a) of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007, Title XII, Div. A, P. L. 110-181, as amended.  This program operates in Jordan and Egypt in addition to the in-country program in Iraq.

Priority 3 (P-3): Family Reunification

P-3 provides USRAP access to members of designated nationalities who have immediate family members in the United States who entered as refugees or were granted asylum (even if they subsequently gained LPR status or naturalized as U.S. citizens).  Parents, spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21 of the U.S.-based asylee or refugee can participate.  For FY 2020, P-3 processing is available to individuals of the following nationalities:

  • Afghanistan
  • Burundi
  • Central African Republic
  • Cuba
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Mali
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria

Following-to-Join Family Reunification Petitions

A refugee admitted to the United States may request “following-to-join benefits” for his or her spouse and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 who were not previously granted refugee status.  Within two years of admission, the refugee may file a Form I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition with DHS for each eligible family member.

Individuals who gain access to the USRAP through the Form I-730 petition process are interviewed by DHS or Department of State consular officers to verify the relationships claimed in the petition, as well as to examine any applicable bars to status and admissibility.  Beneficiaries of I-730 petitions are not required to establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution, as they derive their status from the petitioner.  Beneficiaries of I-730 petitions may be processed within their country of origin or in other locations.

Certain relatives in the United States may file an I-730 petition and simultaneously seek Priority 3 access for their qualifying family members (if eligible).  In some cases, the I-730 petition will be the only option as the family members are still in their country of origin.  Unlike the P-3 process, the I-730 process does not allow the relative in the United States to petition for parents.

On This Page

  1. Introduction
    1. Who is a Refugee?
    2. Security and Humanitarian Crisis at the U.S. Southern Border
    3. Rising Protection Claims and Backlog
    4. Security Vetting in Refugee Admissions
    5. DHS/USCIS Credible Fear Caseload FY 2009-2018
    6. DHS/USCIS Asylum Caseload FY 2009-2018
    7. DOJ/EOIR Immigration Court Asylum Caseload FY 2009-2018
    8. Refugee Admissions and Asylum Grants Since 1980
  3. I. Description of the Nature of the Refugee Situation
  4. II. Description of the Number and Allocation of the Refugees To Be Admitted and an Analysis of Conditions Within the Countries From Which They Came
    1. Proposed FY 2020 Allocations
    2. Country Conditions
    3. Religious Freedom
  5. III. Description of the Proposed Plans for Their Movement and Resettlement and the Estimated Cost of Their Movement and Resettlement
    1. Overseas Processing
    2. Adjudication
    3. Post-Adjudication Processing
    4. Transportation
    5. Cultural Orientation
    6. Reception and Placement (R&P)
    7. Where are Refugees Resettled?
    8. Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement
    9. What Do the Resettlement Agencies Do?
    10. What Happens When Refugees Arrive?
    11. Beyond R&P
    12. Estimated Cost for Refugee Processing and Resettlement
  6. IV. Analysis of the Anticipated Social, Economic, and Demographic Impact of Their Admission to the United States
  7. V. Description of the Extent to Which Other Countries Will Admit and Assist in the Resettlement of Such Refugees
  8. VI. Analysis of the Impact of the Participation of the United States in the Resettlement of Such Refugees on the Foreign Policy Interests of the United States
  9. VII. Additional Information
    1. FY 2018 USRAP Admissions by Country of Origin
    2. FY 2018 USRAP Arrivals by State of Initial Resettlement
  10. Annex 1: USRAP Access Categories
    1. Priority 1 (P-1): Individual Referrals
    2. Priority 2 (P-2): Group Referrals
    3. Priority 3 (P-3): Family Reunification
    4. Following-to-Join Family Reunification Petitions

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future